Brown's Alignment Auto Repair

Vehicle Maintenance

How to Buy a Used Car

August 3rd, 2014

How To Buy a used Car

How to buy a used car. New car sales have been on the rise over the last three years. As a result the market is being flooded with used cars. This a a great time to find and buy a good used / preowned vehicle. There are four main steps to purchasing a used car.

1. Do your homework: Figure out how much you want to spend. Do searches on Craigslist and Carmax to see what is available in your price range. Think about what vehicles you like. Here at Brown’s we believe Honda / Acura are hands down How to buy a used car brown's alignment Brake and auto repair raleighmaking the most reliable cars. The next tier of best cars includes Toyota / Lexus, Subaru and Nissan. What features are important to you? How many seats or how much room do you need? Consider a vehicles gas mileage performance. Look at vehicle safety ratings. Now that you have determined what you are looking for you can do some searches on and to determine what a fair price for a specific vehicle is. You will see that car selling prices will vary depending on who the seller is. You should be able to get a better deal from a car owner then from a dealer. Finding an original owner selling a car who has all the maintenance records is usually the optimal way to buy a car. Generally most car dealerships, like Leith, are going to be more reliable then the generic used car lots that are popping up all over the place. You will pay a little more but they are less likely to try and sneak a problem by you.

2. Do your own car inspection: Narrow your search and pick a few cars to go look at. Before you go look at a car call the seller and ask pertinent questions. (see our questionnaire form below)  Test drive the vehicle. This is the car you may drive for the next few years, so if it does not feel comfortable or the controls on the dash seem awkward it probably is not the right car for you. Take a flash light with you. Look inside the car, under the dash and under the hood. Look for mud stains where there should not have been mud. This may be a sign the car was flooded. How to buy a used car Brown's alignment brake and auto repair raleighFlooded cars will usually have electrical problems. Try to look under the car and in the wheel well areas for excessive rust. Rust is bad news and should be a huge red flag that this is not the car for you. Ask the seller questions – Has the car been up north or at the coast for portions of it’s life. Look under the hood for possible fluid leaks. Sometimes you can see through the wheels enough to get an idea if the brakes are worn. Do not forget the tires – get on your knees and look at the whole tire and make sure they are not worn out. Watch for excessive wear on the seats, dash and steering wheel. Also take note on the amount of body dents and scratches. These can all be signs of a vehicle that has had a hard life. Used cars are not new so it is ok if they have a few minor needs if the price is right. If you spot too many red flags then it is time to move on and look at another car.

3. Carfax: So you have gotten through the first two steps and are feeling pretty good about a specific car. Now you should check the vehicle’s history report. There are two companies you can pick from. AutoCheck, which is owned by Experian, and CarFax, who was the first to provide detailed car history reports to consumers by fax in the mid 1980s. Although many used car lots prefer AutoCheck which  is a little cheaper, CarFax reports do offer some advantages. CarFax has proven to be more successful on verifying mileage and reporting how many owners the car has had. It is very important to remember that neither vehicle history reports can provide a guaranteed complete history of a vehicle. Both providers can only provide information that has been recorded or reported. If a car was wrecked and there was no police report and no record of repairs then the accident will not show up on any report. Regardless of what the report says, it’s important to be sure the vehicle has been thoroughly inspected before you buy it.

4. Have the Vehicle professionally inspected: Ok – you had to know this would tie back into Brown’s Alignment somehow – right? So, everything checks out and you are ready to buy THIS car. You should take it to a competent repair shop and have it gone over. Here at Brown’s Alignment we charge $85.00. This pre-purchase inspection How to buy a preowned car brown's alignment brake and auto repair raleighincludes a short test drive and a thorough visual inspection. We check brakes, belts, hoses, tires and fluids. We test and verify the heater and air conditioning work properly. The car is lifted in the air so we can check the suspension and look for any oil or coolant leaks. We also look for frame or body damage – any signs that the vehicle has been wrecked. When we are done, if we found major red flags we may recommend not buying the car. Otherwise, we will write a list of potential problems on your receipt that you can use to negotiate the price of the vehicle with.

Use our printable questionnaire sheet below to collect data on any vehicle you are interested in. Call the seller FIRST and ask questions and fill out the work sheet. You may find this is not the car you want and save yourself a trip somewhere.

Print our How to Buy a Used Car questionnaire Stat Sheet! Click Here!   Used Car Stat Sheet1   USED CAR STAT SHEET PIC

Make your car last 200,000 miles!

January 27th, 2014

First and most important if you want your car last 200,000 miles is regular maintenance. Following the manufacture’s maintenance schedule is a good place to start. At Brown’s Alignment we can help you determine what your car really needs and also bypass unnecessary services. Coming in for regular oil services and tire rotations gives us a chance to check your car over for any potential problems. Most manufactures recommend servicing your car every 3 to 5,000 miles. Tests have shown over and over again that cars that are serviced regularly hold up better and last longer than cars that are neglected.

On your way to helping your car last 200,000 miles

In between your visits to the shop you should do your own mini inspections. Once per week give your car a once over. Check your engine oil, the car must be on level ground. We will be glad to show you how to check your oil if you do not know how. Check that all the lights are working. (This step might save you getting a ticket). Make sure your wipers are not splitting or cracking. Ideally check your tire pressure or at least give your tires an eyeball test. Look at the ground below were your car is normally parked for any signs of fluid leaks. All this should take less than 5 minutes and could save you some headaches like being strand on the side of the road. Problems that are neglected often end up costing more money than they would have if they had been taken care of right away.
The next part of your job is to be aware of how your car sounds, drives and smells. Sometimes it is a good idea to turn off the music and just listen as you drive. Be on the lookout for any unusual noises. Noises to listen for include: squeal, screech, whistle, squeak, grinding, rough metal on metal, bump, thump, clunk, etc.. How is your car riding? Is it bouncy, jerking, vibrating, pulsating, sputtering, coughing or dragging? Also, do not forget about smells. Bad smells include: hot, burning type smells and coolant has a sweet smell. Any time you can catch a problem in its infancy it can only help save you time and money. Remember you goal is to last 200,000 miles or more!

**Note: The more information you can provide to you repair shop about how, what and when a specific problem occurs the better chance they have to find and resolve the issue quickly.

When it is time for service and or repair use only quality parts and fluids that meet your car manufacture’s specifications. See our services page.

Keep your car clean. The environment dishes out a lot of abuse while your car is trying to last 200,000 miles. Regular baths will keep salt and environmental hazards from building up on the car’s paint and undercarriage. Salt causes horrible rust issues with the suspension and brake systems. It shortens component’s life spans and adds to labor times when repairs are done. Keeping the paint clean and waxed will help it last longer and fade less. Dirty carpet and seats will wear out faster. There is also a psychological connection between keeping your car clean and also wanting to keep it running well.

Lastly, taking off slowly , slowing down and turning easy will greatly reduce wear and tear on your car. Aggressively racing from stop to stop type driving is hard on your engine and transmission and will reduce the life of your tires and brake pads. Try to avoid holding your steering all the way right or left for more than a few seconds as this can lead to power steering pump damage. If you want you car to be  your companion and last 200,000 miles you need to be nice to it.